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Pure Fibre Optic FTTP Broadband Networks Cover 780,000 UK Premises

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016 (1:06 am) - Score 3,000

The spread of “ultra-fast” pure fibre optic broadband connections (FTTP/H) across the United Kingdom appears to have accelerated over the past year, with the latest estimate of premises passed delivering a total of 779,006 (up from 351,642 last year) and it’s set to reach around 4 million by 2020.

True fibre optic connectivity, such as the Fibre-to-the-Premise / Home (FTTP/H) service, generally take an optical fibre cable directly to your doorstep and this transmits information using laser light instead of using less reliable electrical signals via metal cables (Will the Real Fibre Optic Broadband Service Please Stand Up).

We also include Fibre-to-the-Building (FTTB) services into our summary because they’re generally able to achieve the same sort of speeds, even though some FTTB installs do have a small piece of high capacity metal Ethernet cable over the last few metres to your apartment or office.

Related FTTH/P/B connections are capable of delivering Gigabit class speeds (1Gbps+ or 1000Mbps+ if you prefer), which means they’re currently one of the most future proof ways of delivering “ultra-fast” Internet access. Unfortunately the significant civil works required to install the service also make it very expensive and slow to roll-out.

Never the less the latest data to June 2016, which is based on a mix of actual figures and some estimates collected via Point Topic and ISPreview.co.uk, highlights that the expansion of related connections is finally picking up steam.

Native FTTH/P/B Coverage Estimate (Premises Passed)
2013 = 186,500
2014 = 251,522 (+34.86%)
2015 = 351,642 (+39.80%)
2016 = 779,006 (+121.53%)

The good news is that we expect to see further rapid expansion of FTTH/P/B coverage over the next 3-4 years, with Openreach (BT), Virgin Media, Gigaclear, KCOM, Cityfibre and Hyperoptic all being among the biggest influencers.

The total also includes data from other high profile alternative network providers (altnets), such as IFNL / GTC, Fibre Options, ITS Technology, Keycom (Relish), Vision Fibre Media, B4RN, Community Fibre, Ask4, Call Flow Solutions, Sky Broadband (independent trial areas) and Cybermoor. A few smaller altnets also exist in the total, but much of the data from them is only measured in the hundreds of premises passed.

However the above total does not include any FTTP data from Virgin Media because their roll-out to 1 million+ premises by 2019 (here) has only just started and some of the numbers are apparently still considered to be “commercially sensitive“, which is also the same for a few other operators and hence we can’t detail everybody below.

The Biggest Influencers

As usual the biggest movement comes from BT, which last year had 160,000 premises passed with their 330Mbps capable FTTP (a 1Gbps service is due to go live soon) and this has now increased to 300,000+. Since last year BT has also announced a plan to roll-out FTTP to 2 million premises by 2020 (here), which explains the rapid acceleration in deployments.

Meanwhile KCOM in Hull and East Yorkshire has pushed FTTP out to 78,000 premises (up from 50,000 last year) and they’re heading for around 150,000 by the end of December 2017. Elsewhere Hyperoptic, which mostly tends to focus on big residential apartment (MDU) and office blocks in UK cities, is predicted to cover around 200,000 premises and they aim to reach roughly 500,000 over the next 2-3 years.

Rural focused ISP Gigaclear has also been playing an increasingly large role and recorded 20,000 premises passed during early 2016 (here), although they’re well on their way to covering 40,000 by the end of this year and they’re even talking about reaching 100,000 by the end of 2017. This ISP probably deserves more praise than most due to its focus on smaller rural areas.

Another key contributor is Cityfibre, although they tend to prefer the wildly misleading “addressable market” gauge of theoretical coverage instead of actual premises passed. But we do know that they have around 20,000 premises passed in Bournemouth and the most recent figure for York is 11,000. On top of that you can probably add a few thousand business and public sector FTTP connections. However the UK fibre network acquisition from KCOM has confused matters, but we’ll try to get a solid figure for next year’s update.

Finally it’s worth pointing towards the community built B4RN network in remote rural parts of Lancashire, Cumbria and Yorkshire, which has connected around 1,800 premises to its 1Gbps FTTH/P network. We can’t easily give a premises passed total for B4RN because they go where communities / volunteers support them and thus we count actual connections instead.

Admittedly some operators, such as Sky (Sky Broadband), appear to have scaled back their ambitions (here). On the other hand Vodafone are pondering whether or not to build their own fibre optic network (here), although we’d be quite surprised if they did that without first gobbling another major fixed line ISP like Virgin Media.

At this point it’s important to remind readers that the United Kingdom is home to a total of around 26.7 million households and nearly all of those can get a fixed line broadband service, although the vast majority are reached by older, slower and cheaper methods like ADSL2+ or hybrid-fibre solutions like FTTC or HFC DOCSIS (Cable).

The good news is that over the next few years we’re finally going to see FTTH/P/B connections make a noticeable impact in the United Kingdom’s telecoms and broadband market, reaching something around 4 million premises passed by 2020.

NOTE: Fibre-to-the-Building (FTTB) should not be confused with Openreach’s significantly slower and confusingly named Fibre-to-the-Basement technology (example), which is VDSL2 based and excluded from our summary.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
9 Responses
  1. Karen says:

    There are a lot of new builds now attracting FTTP. I was looking in Milton Keynes where there is a lot of development and most of the big builders(bar one) were FTTP with BT

    1. fastman says:

      there has been about 15000 FTTP connected premises in Milton Keynes for about 3 – 4 years

  2. MikeW says:

    Discounting FTTB/VDSL? Any special reason?

    The much-lauded Japanese and South-Korean deployments include 25% and 33% coverage this way. The FTTH council includes FTTB in their definition, but places no limitation on the capability of the copper portion.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      As the article very clearly says Mike, this is about “ultra fast” connectivity that can also cope with Gigabit speeds. Anything with slow VDSL2 in the mix would reflect a very different class of service and thus require a different / hybrid-fibre focused article.

    2. chris conder says:

      Nice reply Mark.

    3. MikeW says:

      Well, the title says it is about “pure fibre optic”, not an arbitrary speed qualification.

      The same amount of fibre, with the same amount of copper, but a different hybrid technique (G.hn or G.Fast) would suddenly qualify. As seems to be happening in Japan and South Korea.

      Or the same amount of fibre, with new optics (eg 10Gbps), suddenly makes the copper segment inadequate again.

      FTTB seems to be arbitrary cannon-fodder, depending on the agenda. Sometimes it is good enough to include. Sometimes it isn’t. I’m merely pointing out that it is always going to be someone’s arbitrary decision.

      Even worse…
      There’s even a dilemma with “pure FTTP” sometimes. When deployed as VM are currently doing, it will certainly count as “pure fibre optic”: fibre into the home. However, when they use RFoG over the top of it, it strangely acts with the same limitations as a piece of Coax copper (which is, of course, less limited than twisted pair); and, in fact, there will be a length of coax copper.

      Should FTTP really be treated as “pure fibre” if it employs a “hybrid technique”? Your first argument – against FTTB/VDSL – is that the *actual* hybrid technique is an important part of the equation. Shouldn’t that argument stand for VM’s variant of fibre too?

      Or … if you wish to argue that VM’s FTTP has the future potential, even if unused right now, then shouldn’t you also accept that FTTB/twisted-pair also has a future potential?

      The ultimate point is that FTTP offers potential – and that is what we really care about right now. Likewise FTTB offers potential – because we can’t unlearn those new hybrid techniques.

    4. Mark Jackson says:

      An interesting perspective and some fair points, but I disagree with your particular direction of dilution towards making BT’s VDSL based FTT-“Basement” apply.

      The title of an article also rarely gives you the full context where strict character limits apply, which is just as true of newspapers as book covers. You read the content for the full context, as is normal everywhere.

      As I said, VDSL based FTTBasement in the UK cannot even deliver connection speeds of above 100Mbps, let alone support Gigabit class performance, and thus it will never be factored in above. End of story.

      Now G.fast based FTTBasement might have a stronger argument for future inclusion, especially as in that environment you could in theory unlock its full potential to reach Gigabit speeds over a single line (BT have so far chosen not to do this.. yet). But we’ll cross that bridge once the real roll-out starts.

    5. TheFacts says:

      Surely the point about ‘fibre to the basement’ is exactly that. Once there it can upgraded in speed or more fibres fed through the duct. That just leaves the issue of getting to individual flats in an acceptable way when the existing services are buried under floors and above ceilings.

    6. Dumb argument says:

      Nicely explained your reasoning Mark, was obviously wasted on them though.

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